Donald Trump, Henry II, James Comey, Thomas Becket

“Will No One Rid Me of This Meddlesome Priest?”

By Grace Lidia Suarez

An interesting exchange between James Comey and Angus King during Comey’s testimony before Congress went like this:

When he was asked if he took President Trump’s “hope” that he would drop the Flynn-Russia investigation “as a directive,” Mr. Comey responded, “Yes, yes. It rings in my ears as kind of ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ ”

If you were not paying attention during Medieval English History class, Comey was referring to the clash between King Henry II of England and his Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket.  Becket was the “meddlesome priest” who dared to defy the King in order to protect the rights of the Church.  Here is a fine explanation of the meaning of this statement and its relevance to the Trump/Comey saga.

I’m in the middle of reading John Guy’s book Thomas Becket. What strikes me is the number of similarities between King Henry II and Trump.

“NEVER ONE TO ACCEPT DEFEAT, HENRY STRUCK BACK WHEN his envoys returned empty-handed from the papal curia at Sens. After hearing their report on Christmas Eve 1164 at Marlborough in Wiltshire, he was indignant that Pope Alexander had thwarted him by allowing Becket to establish himself unmolested at Pontigny. He could be heard dropping broad hints that he was ready to renounce the pope and his “treacherous cardinals.” And he decided to take vicious reprisals designed to irritate the pope and make the lives of Thomas and all those connected with him as miserable as possible.”

Similarly, Trump turned his ire on James Baker and Andrew McCabe, two top FBI employees, and former colleagues of Comey.

James Baker was the FBI’s top lawyer. He was suddenly moved out of his position by the current Director, Christopher Wray. While it was expected that the incoming director would choose his own team, the timing of his removal was seen as suspect. As Benjamin Wittes said to Business Insider:

I have no problem with the idea that Wray should pick his own team over time, including his own general counsel,” said Benjamin Wittes, an expert in national security law and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has known Baker for years.

“The idea that Jim should stay in place indefinitely is not what I would argue,” Wittes said. “But, if I were Wray and I meant to replace my general counsel, the antics of the last two weeks would have convinced me not to do it under fire to make sure no one thinks I am giving the administration a scalp.”

Trump unloaded on McCabe, who had announced his retirement, in a series of tweets, at least one of which sounded decidedly threatening. It is unclear what sin McCabe is suspected of having committed.

As Business Insider pointed out,

McCabe was also not in charge at the time of the bureau’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct government business. He took on an “oversight role” in the investigation in February 2016 — long after his wife lost her election bid. Comey, who was FBI director at the time, was tasked with making the final decisions in the Clinton email probe.


Many, including myself, read that as a threat to have McCabe fired before his pension vested, an act so petty it is worthy of King Henry. Of course, since he is a civil service employee, firing him would not be easy, as the Washington Post noted.

In addition, Trump turns on former allies with a disturbing regularity. Here he is shooting across Michael Flynn’s bow. And here he takes aim at his former golden guy Jeff Sessions.

in short, in Trump’s reign, as in Henry II’s, no one is safe, and while it is unlikely Trump will cast his enemies adrift without oars, he sounds like he would like to try.  But perhaps someone might remind Trump that while Becket was almost immediately made a saint, Henry II was forced to crawl through the streets of Canterbury on his knees in penance to his former “meddlesome priest.”

Share Your Thoughts?